I have a lot to say about this book. Sadly, I don’t believe all of it will be good. Some of which did have an impact on the rating and some of which did not. Sweetest Release by Nicole Highland was good, but it could have been SO MUCH better. It’s told entirely from one person’s POV, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it means that we have to get a LOT from that person’s interactions with other people. Because of that I feel like I was left with way too many unanswered questions.
Before I get to my review and all the thousands upon thousands of questions I am left with, let me tell you all about this book.
Natalie and Devin fell in love in high school. Their time together was ended all too soon when Devin was forced to move. After recovering from a broken heart, Natalie meets James who helps her pick up the pieces. Thinking she has found her happily ever after, they get married. But everything she thought she knew gets flipped when she discovers her husband has been cheating on her after four years of marriage. To make matters worse, Devin pops back into the picture. Now Natalie must decide if her marriage is worth saving or if an old flame is worth a second chance.
There you have it. All nicely tied up in a pretty little bow. From here with spoilers ahead (your one and only warning) it may get a little ugly.
Obviously from the blurb I went into this book expecting the husband to cheat. And I knew an ex-boyfriend would show back up and make Natalie reconsider the feelings she once had for him. I was unprepared for how far it would go with her ex, despite the fact that her and her husband were plainly heading for a divorce.
Now, I want to be clear about something. I had some problems with this book and to be fair I have been cheated on in the past. I don’t believe that has colored my judgment in any way as I have read other books where an ex magically appears.
I did finish the book. I did read through it rather quickly and not because I just wanted to get it over with. I genuinely liked it, though I do think it could’ve been better developed. There were way too many unanswered questions.
With that said and done, let’s get down to it. Rollercoaster ride, here we come!
The story opens with a prologue of Devin and Natalie saying goodbye. From there we see what tends to happen between two people in love and distance. Their relationship ends up dying and Natalie slowly heals. Then she meets James and it’s another whirlwind romance, except this time she marries the guy, with an image of Devin interrupting only once. (Eep!) And that is what leads us to chapter one.
Also leads me to my first problem. The heroine’s name (Natalie, if you hadn’t read the blurb) remained unknown until Chapter One where she has discovered her husband cheated. And it isn’t even until he comes home after she has checked the tablet and found his solicitous conversations that the heroine’s name even comes up.
“‘She’s just a friend, Natalie. That’s all there is to it. She was hanging out with us last night after the softball game, and she was acting drunk and stupid.’”
This is the first time her name is spoken. If I hadn’t gone back and read the blurb, I wouldn’t have known her name until this point.
Of course, Natalie calls bullshit.
“‘How could you say that, James? I don’t care whether or not you actually slept with her. This is just as bad. You don’t even talk to me this way! How could you do this with a virtually complete stranger?’”
At this point, Natalie has already said it’s over. She has no intention of forgiving him. Not that he bothers to offer any kind of explanation. In fact, according to James, it means nothing. They are just words. Empty words. I really wanted to smack him upside his head. Though from what happened after Natalie got home from work, that probably wouldn’t have been the best idea. Yep, we get our first taste of drama, maybe some suspense because James hasn’t even gotten started.
“‘Put it down,’ I chided, careful not to let any trepidation escape through my voice. I tried to back away from him, but he pushed me against the counter.
‘What’s the matter? Getting a little nervous?’
The tip of the knife poked into the base of my throat, and a slight grin appeared on his face. Is he actually enjoying this? I thought. The thought made my stomach turn.”
At this point, I have no doubt that this relationship is toxic and she absolutely needs to escape her husband. I can clearly see the direction this story will go. What was unclear was whether or not this was the first time something to this effect had happened? Had he threatened her life before? Had he threatened his own? (Something he does two chapters later.) Had he hit her? From what we learn closer to the end of the story, this wasn’t James’s first rodeo. (Okay, I didn’t see that coming.) And they had already been married four years. Wouldn’t his anger have reared its ugly head sooner than that?
The next morning, Natalie awakes to find a text message from her ex-boyfriend, Devin. The guy who broke her heart after a failed long distance relationship. It takes another three chapters for her to concede and agree to meet. But they don’t meet up some place neutral. Instead, she goes over to his place. I feel like there should have been sirens going off screaming “Danger Will Robinson!” Not as if Natalie didn’t know it was a bad idea.
“I was nervous. I knew what I was doing was wrong, hypocritical even, but I had to see Devin. I knew this would be so freeing. I didn’t care.”
The love we see between Natalie and Devin is bright and beautiful. Three blind mice could see it! I mean, come on, what guy saves a painting his ex-girlfriend did for him nearly seven years ago.
“In the corner of the room by the television hung a painting I had done for him so long ago. I couldn’t believe after all this time he had kept my painting. His sullen, beautiful face, and those deep, piercing eyes stared back at me from the wall. A smile crossed my face.
Devin turned around and noticed that I was staring at the painting. He must have been reading my mind, for I had not spoken a word aloud about the painting, yet he seemed to know exactly what I was thinking.
‘There was no way I could let it go,’ Devin said, as his velvety voice trailed off into the silence of the room.”
Not hard to tell it was precious to him. And he hadn’t quite ever let her go. My problem here is that she seems to be jumping back in with both feet, however based on the prologue she had been angry and hurt over the end of their relationship. She has even kept him at arm length for three chapters. And at no point in this meeting does she bother to ask him about what happened to them? She doesn’t question why he stopped talking to her? She doesn’t even ask him why he text her out of nowhere?
They haven’t spoken in years and she asks nothing. What? Color me stumped because I have no explanation.
I could go over a couple more scenes like this or even some of the good ones, but I think I’ll share a few of my favorite lines instead. Honestly, I don’t want to give it all away AND it does get better!
- “‘You know, this state of victimhood that you like to pretend to be in is really getting old.’” (I totally gave Natalie an air-five. This was funny and shut her husband up.)
- “I was about to walk into his lair.” (I was amused because the only time I usually see “lair” is in fantasy or paranormal.)
- “Celebrate all accomplishments, no matter how large or small.” (These are great words to live by!)
- “‘Well, I didn’t realize you wanted to be in here at the same time,’ I said mockingly.” (In case you haven’t noticed, I thrive on sarcasm.)
- “‘You’ll have to work on your behavior. Or we’ll both be in trouble,’ he said with a grin.” (Made me snicker. Of course, I’ve been told this myself. Not that I ever listen.)
There is development between Devin and Natalie, but I think it could’ve been stronger. To me, the prologue was unnecessary. Everything we got from it was information that could’ve been filtered throughout the story. The drama created from James and his anger management offered me no doubt he was a bad guy. I would’ve liked to have seen this explored a bit more. Still, it kept me hanging on and reading to the very last page.
With that said, overall I give this 4 stars.
Reviewer: Brigit Rosé